PHILADELPHIA -- Stewart Bradley banged his head on a teammate's leg, struggled to get up, took a couple steps and fell helmet-first onto the ground.
Clearly, something was wrong.
Bradley sustained a concussion when he collided with fellow linebacker Ernie Sims during the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Yet somehow the Eagles' middle linebacker returned for a few plays before he was pulled for the rest of the game.
Minutes before Bradley went down, Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb's head was slammed down so hard on a tackle from behind that a chunk of grass got stuck in his helmet. He got up slowly and walked off the field.
The team initially said Kolb had a jaw injury, and the quarterback returned to throw three passes before sitting out the rest of the game with a concussion.
Head injuries were an important issue for the NFL during the offseason. Last year the league implemented stricter return-to-play guidelines for players who show concussion symptoms, and each team must consult with an independent neurologist whenever there is a head injury.
So how could Bradley and Kolb be allowed to re-enter the game with concussions?
"We stuck to the criteria there, and then followed up on it," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday. "We didn't just stick (them) out there without having followed the protocol. We also made sure that we stayed on top of it when they came back off the field and made the decision when symptoms were there. I have full trust in the trainers and the doctors and the procedure they admit through."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 teams last Dec. 2 saying a player who sustains a concussion shouldn't return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms. Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness, persistent headaches and confusion as evidenced by disorientation to person, time or place.
Anyone watching Bradley stagger to his feet and then crash to the ground probably would have considered him disoriented.
"When he came off that initial time, he was fine, he went through all the steps, and he flew through those things fine and obviously was eager to get back out there," Reid said.
Reid said he didn't see the play live. When it happened, Kolb already was receiving attention, so it's unknown which members of the medical staff witnessed Bradley's disturbing tumble.
Reid wouldn't allow head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder to speak to reporters Monday, saying: "I gave you everything that needed to be done." Reid also staunchly supported Burkholder and the medical staff for the way they addressed the injuries.
"They go to the extreme to make sure that they follow the medical protocol that's set for everything, and it's no different for this situation."
The NFL Players Association is looking into way the Eagles handled the situation.
"We are still reviewing the evaluation and care provided to our players last weekend," said Dr. Thom Mayer, the union's medical director. "As the referees in the NFL often say, `After further review ...'
"Until we have had a chance to review all of the data, it is premature to say the care was appropriate."
The NFL Brain, Head and Neck Medical Committee also looked into the matter.
"We are all comfortable with the fact the players received appropriate treatment in these cases, as per the guidelines set out by the commissioner and by the players association," said Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chair of the NFL Committee.
Last year the Eagles let running back Brian Westbrook return three weeks after he sustained his first career concussion. He suffered another one in his first game back and later said he wasn't completely healed when he returned.
Kolb and Bradley weren't available for comment Monday. Both players were sent home from the Eagles' practice facility and didn't watch film with their teammates.
"They didn't feel great," Reid said.
However, Reid didn't rule either player out for Sunday's game at Detroit.
"I can't tell you that," he said. "We have to go through and do exactly what the protocol calls for, and that's the procedure that we're doing right now."
Kolb and Bradley will be evaluated Wednesday, and they will see an independent specialist, as required by the league, on Friday.
Reid again squashed any quarterback controversy.
"Kevin Kolb's the No. 1 quarterback," the coach said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press